Friday, February 11, 2011

Infinite variety in two colors: red and white

This Vortex quilt shown below looks modern, but it dates to circa 1900. It is an example of the more than 650 red-and-white quilts from the collection of Joanna Rose, which will be on view March 25–30 at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. The exhibit will cap the American Folk Art Museum's Year of the Quilt celebration.

Vortex quilt, circa 1900, 80 x 82", courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum

This quilt is fascinating to us because it combines a mathematically precise optical illusion - which we do not associate with the 1890-1910 period* -  with fanciful, Art Nouveau butterflies and scrolls more typical of the era.  The construction is also of great interest.  By our count, the circle that comprises the vortex has been neatly divided into 52 slices and more than 20 concentric rings.  The pieces in the middle of the quilt must be incredibly small, and yet everything matches up perfectly.

The collection as a whole is astonishing not only because of the sheer number of red and white textiles, but also because no two are exactly alike. Thus the exhibit has been titled Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts.  It will be the largest exhibition of quilts ever held in the city.

The exhibit will be on for only six days, and admission is free.  Maria Ann Conelli, the executive director of the American Folk Art Museum, says:  "Since admission to the quilt exhibition is free, it represents a special gift to the people of New York City and beyond.”  In honor of this unprecedented event we've selected a handful of stunning red-and-white quilts - some from museum collections, and some from modern-day designers - to show you next week. Of course, the red-and-white color scheme is also in keeping with Valentine's Day. We hope you'll stay tuned !

Image credits:  The image is shown with permission of the American Folk Art Museum. If you are going to be in New York you can also see Quilts: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum at the museum on West 53rd Street, and Superstars:  Quilts from the American Folk Art Museum at the Lincoln Square Branch.

* The op-art movement is often credited to Victor Vasarely, who was born in 1906 and whose famous Zebra painting was done in the 1930's.


  1. What an AMAZING Exhibit this will be! Red & White quilts are my absolute favorite! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. That is such a stunning looking quilt, and the exhibition will be something to see I'm sure.

  3. One week is much too short! They should put together a travelling show. These quilts deserve to be seen around the world!

  4. We have heard there will be a traveling exhibit at some point... we will keep everyone posted. Thanks to all for your comments !

  5. Hello from Vienna, Austria. All those quilts on your site are just gorgeous. Thanks for adding my tutorial! Elisabeth

  6. What an amazing quilt!

    I don't think I can even imagine attending such a fantastic exhibit! A traveling version would be so exciting.


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